At a time when jingoism and hyper-nationalism are getting celebrated even in movies, director Shoojit Sircar came up with a terrific film that is easily a master class on how to make such movies with perfect use of creative liberty and facts. For most people alive today Jalianwala Bagh massacre would be that 5 or 10 marks question we all answered in our history exams. Shoojit Sircar makes sure that it will no longer be that for anyone who watches Sardar Udham. With a riveting performance from Vicky Kaushal powered by a well-structured screenplay, Sardar Udham is a brilliant cinematic experience.
The movie shows us the journey of Udham Singh from India to London. He was an associate of Bhagath Singh and wanted to bring revolution. He spent years waiting for the perfect opportunity to assassinate Michael O’Dwyer, who gave the green signal for the Jaliawala Bagh massacre so that he could make a statement in front of the world about our freedom struggle. That patient 21 years of Udham’s life and what kept that anger in him alive is what we find out in Sardar Udham.
I absolutely loved the scripting structure because they managed to show us the depth of trauma through which Udham Singh went through by not following a linear narration. The film is two hours and forty-two minutes long, and for almost two hours, we are not shown what triggered him to dedicate his entire life to this assassination. You can sense the determination and anger in the eyes of the man. He even yells at the judge who sentenced him. The script written by Shubhendu Bhattacharya and Ritesh Shah first shows us Udham’s planning and execution as a flashback story while he was under trial for the murder. And it is after that we are shown the primary reason for this act, and when you backtrack the anger of the character after finishing the movie, you realize the depth of the frustration.
The movie becomes different from the usual biopics mainly because of the way it approaches the main character. Shoojit Sircar is not trying to create a movie that shows the viewer how Udham Singh killed O’Dwyer. Instead, he focused on the why. And to answer that “why,” he recreated the Jalianwala Bagh massacre in the most brutal and brilliant way possible. The one question that was always there at the back of my head while watching this film was about the production design. The recreation of the London of old days and the depiction of the scale of the Jalianwala Bagh massacre had an incredible level of authenticity, and one would feel the gut-wrenching pain of Udham Singh.
One more exciting thing about the writing is that it is not making its antagonists caricatures with zero layers. The lack of remorse in both General Dyer and Michael O’Dwyer is shown through scenes that look at them in a very up close and personal way. Rather than making it a mere story about Udham Singh’s heroics, we are made aware of the political climate of those times. There is a sequence that has Winston Churchill and King George IV discuss the future plans for India.
Avik Mukhopadhyay places the camera to give the viewer an immersive experience. You won’t really see an extremely wide establishing shot just to show off the recreation of the old times. Another major plus of this movie is the editing. Chandrashekhar Prajapati makes sure the pace is maintained in a way that doesn’t disrupt the rhythm of the film. The pacing of the post-massacre sequence was highly effective. He knew where to hold and fast forward so that the sequence remained in the heads of everyone who saw the film.
Vicky Kaushal is nothing short of brilliant in being the character. The outburst at the court, the way he controls his anger during his conversation with O’Dwyer, the way he smiles towards the end when the investigating officer comes to see him with a box full of sweets, etc., represented those different phases in Singh’s emotional journey. What will stay with you the most will be Vicky’s performance in that lengthy massacre sequence where he tries to save the people who were badly injured. The sequence is just heartbreaking, and his performance was terrific. Shaun Scott as Michael O’Dwyer was effective, and Stephen Hogan plays the role of the investigative officer who eventually acknowledges Singh’s bravery. Banita Sandhu plays the role of Udham’s love interest, and Amol Parashar was memorable in his cameo as Bhagat Singh.
Shoojit Sircar has called this movie his dream project, and he has made Sardar Udham unique and compelling even on a craft level. A writer like Ritesh Shah is someone who is primarily associated with movies that are evidently verbal. But in this association with Sircar, the dialogues felt very real, and the emphasis was rarely on the words. The silence we experience during the conversation between O’Dwyer and Singh communicates a lot more than a typical verbal debate.
With a riveting performance from Vicky Kaushal powered by a well-structured screenplay, Sardar Udham is a brilliant cinematic experience.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended